What are the WHO guidelines on sugar intake?

Updated: Dec 01, 2020
  • Author: Steven M Schwarz, MD, FAAP, FACN, AGAF; Chief Editor: Jatinder Bhatia, MBBS, FAAP  more...
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The World Health Organization released guidelines on sugar intake. [38]

The guidelines include the following:

  • WHO recommends a reduced intake of free sugars throughout the life course.
  • In both adults and children, WHO recommends reducing the intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake.
  • WHO suggests a further reduction of the intake of free sugars to below 5% of total energy intake. Free sugars include monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices, and fruit juice concentrates.
  • For countries with a low intake of free sugars, levels should not be increased. Higher intakes of free sugars threaten the nutrient quality of diets by providing significant energy without specific nutrients.
  • These recommendations were based on the totality of evidence reviewed regarding the relationship between free sugars intake and body weight and dental caries.
  • Increasing or decreasing free sugars is associated with parallel changes in body weight, and the relationship is present regardless of the level of intake of free sugars. The excess body weight associated with free sugars intake results from excess energy intake.
  • Although exposure to fluoride reduces dental caries at a given age and delays the onset of the cavitation process, it does not completely prevent dental caries, and dental caries still progresses in populations exposed to fluoride.
  • Intake of free sugars is not considered an appropriate strategy for increasing caloric intake in individuals with inadequate energy intake if other options are available.
  • These recommendations do not apply to individuals in need of therapeutic diets, including for the management of severe and moderate acute malnutrition. Specific guidelines for management of severe and moderate acute malnutrition are being developed separately.

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